Luke Cage Season 2 Review: Follows the Current Trend of "Letting the Past Die" in Film and TV
In his sophomore season, and following his appearances in the first season of Jessica Jones and last year's The Defenders, Luke Cage (played by Mike Colter) returns to Harlem to face off against a new supervillain, Bushmaster (Mustafa Shakir), and returning foes Mariah Dillard (Alfre Woodard) and Shades (Theo Rossi). A war in the streets between Bushmaster and Mariah causes Luke to take increasingly drastic steps to preserve the peace. All the while, Luke deals with his building inner rage and is forced to come to terms with his father (Reg E. Cathey) and his girlfriend Claire (Rosario Dawson). Spoilers ahead.
Learns from the mistakes of season 1
To find something done better in season one presents a tough task. The villains? Bushmaster's presence elevates the show whenever he appears. The side characters? Misty Knight (Simone Missick) gets a sweet robot arm and goes full vigilante, Reg E. Cathey plays Luke's father brilliantly, and even Danny Rand, the immortal Iron Fist (played by Finn Jones), improves from his appearances in The Defenders and his own series. The story? Kept simple but engrossing, essentially Bushmaster's revenge tale. The lead character, Luke Cage himself? Violent, angry, and far more complex. The action? Plentiful, tense, and exciting. Luke Cage season two improves on nearly every aspect of the first season to deliver a lean and mean action/drama crime epic.
This Isn't Going to Go the Way You Think
Lately, a trend is starting to emerge in film sequels: adjusting the trajectory of the series. Essentially, these sequels disrupt the status quo to allow future films in the series to adapt to a new direction. Some recent examples include Thor: Ragnarok, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, and presumably Mission Impossible: Fallout (although it hasn't come out yet at the time of writing). In each of these films, the person, place or thing that keeps the series tethered is done away with. In Ragnarok, Asgard is destroyed. In The Last Jedi, all J.J. Abrams' mystery boxes from The Force Awakens are tossed aside. In Fallen Kingdom, Isla Nublar is destroyed. But by the end of Luke Cage season two, Luke leaves a part of himself behind: his humanity. Throughout the season, Luke encounters his rage time and time again, and often receives help from friends and family. Claire leaves him over it, but his father, Misty Knight, and Danny Rand all appear to help him. Despite their best efforts, by the end of the season, Luke makes a cold-hearted move in Mariah's final moments. As Mariah chokes to death on her own blood and utters her last words, "It burns...", Luke's simple response, "Good", signifies a far departure from the reluctant hero first introduced in Jessica Jones. And the season ends on an even grimmer note: Luke inherits Mariah's night club and becomes a crime boss in his own right, using fear to keep his enemies at bay. In a bold move, despite the best efforts of his friends and family, Luke still succumbs to his anger by the end, leaving open endless possibilities for the direction season 3 could take.